I had two chief goals for this year’s trip to Yellowstone:
- Survive the 13.5-mile hike with Jeffrey
- Help William get the “Young Scientist” badge from the Old Faithful Visitor’s Center
This badge is hecka cool. You have to be eight years old to earn it; Jeff and Eleanor have both done so on previous trips. You check out a backpack full of gear from the ranger station, which includes very neato equipment like a collection of thermal rock samples, a stopwatch, and — best of all — a laser thermometer that allows you to measure the temperature of the thermal features.
William and I got very lucky — Beehive Geyser went off right as we began our trek around the Old Faithful geyser basin! Beehive is unique in that it has a little “indicator geyser” in front of it that goes off roughly ten minutes before the big one does. Because of this, a sizeable crowd had gathered to see it. The mist made a rainbow on the ground, and when the breeze picked up, we all got sprayed with warm water.
It was great to have some one-on-one time with Wimmy. He has a curious mind and loves to learn. It’s always been a pleasure to teach him new things.
Of COURSE we saw Old Faithful. From a distance, this time.
After earning the badge, (check!) we picknicked on the side of the Firehole River. It would have been nice to let the kids swim and splash, but the weather was deemed a little too breezy. (Which, in retrospect, is kind of ridiculous. These are the same kids that splashed in alpine streams in 58 degree weather.)
After lunch we drove across to my favorite thermal area: Mud Volcano. It’s my favorite because there’s been so much recent change to this area in recent decades, and also for the sheer variety of thermal activity. A cooking hillside! A sour lake! The Dragon’s Mouth, and the Black Dragon’s Caldron!
Plus my favorite “magic hill.” I don’t know why, but I love this view.
As a bonus, there was a herd of bison grazing and knocking over trees just off the upper boardwalk!
We followed up all this excitement with dinner at the counter at Fishing Bridge . . .
. . . . followed by a drive through Hayden Valley to scout out wildlife. We stopped at a pull-out where a bunch of hard-core animal watchers had telescopes set up. Jeffrey, being who he is, had no problem going up to them, asking what they were looking at, and if he could have a peek. Thanks to his audacity, we all got to have a peek at a black wolf, far across the valley. William, who wrote a report about wolves in 2nd grade and now considers it his favorite animal, was beyond thrilled. I, on the other hand . . . meh. It looked like a dot with ears, even with the telescope.
If that weren’t enough, we spotted a pair of coyote later on, playing and wrestling on the far side of a river. They were incredibly frisky, chasing each other around, knocking each other over, and behaving essentially like a pair of puppies. I’ve never seen the like before. Alas, they did not photograph well. So, to conclude, I’ll just present another picture of the lovely Hayden Valley: